4 the World blog

Empowering collaborative communities

America’s Vice: Too Much Advice

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When I share a problem with someone, I often receive advice in return.  I just accept this as a fact of my life.  I love my friends and family and know that they only offer advice because they love me and want to help me.  Because I know this, I always just smile and say thank you, which of course opens the door to more advice from them.  As an older sister, I’m guilty of being too advicy myself, even when it comes to parenting, of which I have no direct experience.  And that is the real problem that I see: unsolicited and unwarranted advice.

Think of Sophia from the Golden Girls.  She never told the girls what they should do, instead, she would share a story from her own experience.  I think it is appropriate to try to help someone if 2 things 1.  the person asks for help and 2.  you have personal, direct experience from which to draw.  Just quoting Dr. Phil doesn’t help because we all know that the walk is tougher than the talk.  If you wouldn’t be able to actually do something yourself, then don’t advise someone else to do it.  That just sets a person up to feel like a failure.  On the other hand, if you are just making up solutions off the top of your head, that is insulting, as if the person you are talking to couldn’t come up with solutions based purely on theory and logic.  Basically, if you have never been in a pit, then don’t give someone advice on how to get out of a pit. Ok, well, I guess that last sentence constitutes as advice, but I am drawing on personal experience and you chose to read this, so we’re good.

If this works on a personal level, could it apply on the national level too?  I’ve found that it isn’t just my circle that is advicy.  Americans in general tend to be advicy.  When talking with a friend from Europe, she believes it is an American cultural issue.  Maybe a cultural issue dating back to the formation of our nation.  Afterall, Ben Franklin coined the phrase mind your business.   Is it part of our culture to try to fix things and to help?  Is that why other countries say the United States intervenes too often when we think our intentions are pure?   I do believe that the 2 precepts apply to international policy as well.  1.  Did the group or nation ask for help?  2.  Do we offer experience in the area?   If the nation can solve the problem on their own, it is for them to decide what is the best way and insulting for us to present solutions unless asked for.

This brings up a question of national security.  What if not intervening causes a threat to our nation?  National security is a different topic though this analogy, interpersonal relationship etiquette and foreign relations, can still apply.  If I feel a person is in danger of hurting himself or someone else, then it is my duty to act.  Same when concerning other nations.



Author: 4 the World

4 the World identifies and collaborates with communities across the globe to empower them to identify and solve the most pressing needs of their communities within the areas of health and education. By partnering with the communities in these areas, we provide critical support and capacity-building initiatives to ensure these communities are capable of continuing to grow and thrive in the future.

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